The Center Door

This is truly an historical door, as it was part of the old basilica. It was made by the Florentine artist Antonio Averulino known as Filarete (1400-1469) in the year 1455.

The rich and elegant workmanship is a hymn to Christ, the Virgin Mary and to the apostles Peter and Paul. At the top are the Savior enthroned, giving a blessing, and the Virgin Mary, humble and reverent. This was one of the most widely used themes in the Middle Ages: the Church as a family. Where there is the Father, there must also be the Mother, otherwise it would be cold and heartless. 

In the center, are the impressive, standing figures of Peter and Paul, the two great pillars of the Roman Church. Paul holds a sword, symbol not only of his martyrdom, but of that double-edged blade, the word of God. At his feet is an elegant vase of flowers. Peter is the keeper of the keys. He is depicted as holding the Gospel in one hand and giving the keys over to the kneeling Pope Eugenius IV who had commissioned this door.

The last two panels show the Apostles condemned to death by Nero seated on his throne. Peter is being forcibly led to the Vatican hill where he would be crucified upside down. Paul, on the other hand was a Roman citizen, and met a less cruel death. He was made to kneel, he was blindfolded and hewas beheaded with a single stroke of a sword. We see Paul, in the middle of the same panel as he emerges from a cloud to return the veil to Plautilla: the girl had given it to him to cover his eyes before he was executed.